Aparna Brielle’s Kitty Is “a Gateway Cat” to Lifelong Pet Parenthood · The Wildest

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Aparna Brielle’s Kitty Is “a Gateway Cat” to Lifelong Pet Parenthood

The FUBAR actress became a first-time pet mom when she adopted Oscar Wilde. Now, he’s turned her formerly pet-averse family into cat people, too.

by Nisha Gopalan
September 1, 2023
Aparna Brielle poses with her cat, Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet-playwright who helped define the Aesthetic Movement, is famous for his searing wit and flamboyant presence, frequently dazzling all who meet him. But Oscar Wilde also happens to be the name of actress Aparna Brielle’s cat — a shy, curious kitten rescued during the pandemic — who, like his namesake, has a penchant for charming anyone who crosses paths with him.

“He’s very protective of me actually,” the 29-year-old Indian-American tells The Wildest. “And he’s very, very open to adventure.” These days, Brielle knows a thing or two about adventure — in the form of a fast-moving career. She voices a feisty teen in Netflix’s animated robot-alien adventure Mech Cadets and is fresh off a stint opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the network’s hit action-comedy series, FUBAR, which is already renewed for a second season. You can also see the Oregon-raised actress as the stereotypical mean girl in Boo, Bitch, the Netflix series about a high school introvert (Lana Condor) who becomes a literal ghost and the three-series Peacock original A.P. Bio.

Aparna Brielle with her small cat on a couch
Photo: Kevin Amato

But before she started racking up the credits on IMDB, Brielle was focused on a dance career early in childhood. When she was in college, she got cast in several TV shows that were shooting in the Pacific Northwest. She graduated early and made her move to Los Angeles, where her background as a dancer has informed her acting work, especially when it comes to keeping up with industry heavy-hitters like Schwarzenegger. 

“[Acting and dance] are both arts that take you to another place, she told Numéro Netherlands in June. “They both allow the artist and the audience to create a truly special and even sacred connection for the time that’s shared through performance. Film and TV create an added layer of distance compared to theater or dance, but we still get to connect and work off the energies of the other actors, our crew, and eventually, our audience, too.”

Aparna Brielle holding her cat
Photo: Kevin Amato

And some of that important energy, no doubt, comes from Oscar, who teaches his mom every day about how to interact with the world. He’s even along for the ride when she travels to filming locations for FUBAR. “I’ve flown with Oscar to Toronto,” she says. “I’ve taken him on a leash outside. He is a very intelligent little creature, and I love seeing how he interacts with new people. Every time, he’s just got a way of spying on them and learning about them.”

The Wildest chatted with Brielle about how life has changed since she became a first-time pet mom to Oscar, how she bonds over pets with Arnold, and how her previously pet-averse parents are now totally cat people.

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Aparna Brielle sitting with her cat on her lap
Photo: Kevin Amato

Your days on set must be long and draining. What is the best thing about coming home to Oscar at the end of the work day?

Shooting days can be anywhere from 12 to 15 hours sometimes. Once in a blue moon you’ll get to go home before lunch. But you know, I miss the little guy so much whenever I’m not home. So, I get excited when I’m on my way home, just thinking about how he’s gonna run up to me. And every single time, without fail, Oscar will run up to the door and immediately, like, yell at me, jump on me, snuggle me. Then he’ll run to the kitchen and be like, “All right, it’s time for wet food.” [Laughs] How did I ever live without such a sweet little creature?

Would you ever take him on set with you?

I have never taken him on set, but I will never say never. I’m open to it down the road, but I don’t want to take him at a time where it might be super overwhelming. He’d be fine as long as he has stuff to look at, and I’m there. Although, we did have a lot of dogs on [the FUBAR] set. One person’s dog, as we’re rehearsing on set, she’d just be laying there on the floor watching us.

Aparna Brielle petting her cat
Photo: Kevin Amato

Going back to some or your earlier credits, how did you get your breakout role in A.P. Bio?

I remember when I first got the audition for it, they were all pretty blank-slate in terms of how the character would look or behave. But it was a group of honor-roll kids. It is true academics are such an important part of [Asian culture]…I mean, there’s a reason it’s a stereotype. But I had been told by people who I really admired and trusted, “How do you make it your own? And how do you use that to break out of a stereotype in your next role?”

I felt like with [my character] Sarika, I got lucky. I tried to take it more in the direction of Tracy Flick [the character] from Election. She might be interested in academics…they even show her mom in one episode where she’s like, “I’m trying to get her to party.” She doesn’t do any of these things because she’s just crazy and calculating. And I kind of liked that they started adding layers to break her out of that stereotype.

Aparna Brielle makes a kissy face at her cat, Oscar Wilde, while cupping his face in her hand.
Photo: Kevin Amato

So, you started out doing comedy in A.P. Bio, as well as in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. But what’s interesting about FUBAR is that you’re acting against someone who is one of the biggest action stars in the world. What was it like being cast against Arnold as this NSA analyst?

I have to tell you, it’s still so surreal. I always had a clear vision for where I want to go and a lot of ambition towards it, but you still can’t quite ever predict this. I’m just very humbled by it all. I am lucky, though, in that the show is an action-comedy. I personally don’t do a lot of comedic things in the show, but it gave many of us with comedy backgrounds another side. 

For me, I had to constantly remember rather than going outward with things, I’m bringing my energy down. I was watching so many videos from former CIA agents about the little things people do to be a little different because it was the first time I really got to play with all of this drama training. Honestly, FUBAR has been such a dream experience for me. I feel like everybody in the world knows who Arnold is. My relatives, who don’t even use the internet, I show them a picture and they’re like, “The Terminator!” And it was so special too, because it’s a father-daughter show. And my own father was so, so happy and thrilled. Terminator 2 is his favorite movie ever. I don’t take this for granted.

Aprna Brielle poses on a brown beanbag chair with her head resting in her hand.
Photo: Kevin Amato

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a well-documented animal lover, too. Do you all bond over that?

He has, like, three dogs, a miniature donkey, a miniature horse. We talked about pets many times, and he told me that every morning he makes an oatmeal cookie for his little miniature horse and his donkey. And he just added a little pig to his family as well. They all come into the house and hang out, and he makes them oatmeal cookies every morning. Which I think is adorable.

Aparna Brielle reaches her arm up to Oscar Wilde, who rests on a bookshelf.
Photo: Kevin Amato

Arnold must be a reservoir of knowledge and experience. What have you learned from him?

He always says, “I’m not self-made. It took every single person I’ve worked with to help me be successful.” And he really is about the hard work, the dedication. It was really refreshing seeing him not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. He was so available to all of us and so welcoming. I think that really set a tone [on set]. You know, for someone so iconic to still be very like, “I’m here for the people around me.”

He treats the people around him with kindness. And he is so quick-witted and so funny. It takes a lot to get me starstruck, but this is someone that I grew up with and to see him walk in a room, I was a little bit nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. But lots of respect for the big guy, honestly.

Oscar Wilde plays with Aparna Brielle, who giggles as her bats at her face.
Photo: Kevin Amato

Growing up, was your house full of animals, like Arnold’s?

I had always wanted a pet my whole life. I’d been begging my parents first for a dog for a while. Eventually, I started volunteering at the local shelter because I figured at least that way I can hang out with animals. But I didn’t get a pet until Oscar. He is actually my very first pet. Until then, I just kind of spent time with my friends’ pets. I got him during the pandemic, and at this time, I had felt like a cat would be really great for my lifestyle. I had just moved out on my own from living with roommates and wanted to be a cat mom.

Aparna Brielle snuggles her cat, Oscar Wilde, while looking over her shoulder.
Photo: Kevin Amato

I saw a photo you once posted of Oscar with bunny ears on his head, with a video-game controller in his paws. It seems like you can turn him into various characters, and he’s really good about it.

He is. I don’t like to put him in costumes very often. But he’s so cute and chill about it. And he knows he’s gonna get a treat. I’ve seen him go to sleep in the clothes before, so I don’t think he minds too much.

At the end of the day, are you just a cat person?

I love all animals. But I will say having had Oscar, I am now a very crazy cat lady. And anytime I see one in the wild, I lose it.

Aparna Brielle holding her cat close to her face
Photo: Kevin Amato

How did the culture in India, where your immigrant parents came from, affect this?

In India, mostly animals are strays. My mother actually grew up in Delhi, and she told me a story about how a stray dog followed her dad home. And she was like, “I blacked out the memory. I don’t really fully remember.” So, there was that fear. Also, my parents would often say, “Well, we grew up seeing animals free. It feels wrong to keep them contained to a home,” which I do understand. 

But that was definitely a big part of why I didn’t have a pet growing up. I will say it’s been really magical watching my family just fall in love with my cat. As soon as this little kitten came home and [I saw] the way they lit up, I could see how Oscar had changed their perspectives on pets. And I’m very happy to say that a kitten [named Misha] now has a forever home with my parents. They are officially cat parents.

Photo: Kevin Amato

What would you say to dog people who are cat averse?

To quote the great Jackson Galaxy, “Stop viewing cats through dog lenses.” They have their similarities, but they’re both very different, and both can be extremely snuggly and sweet. People don’t realize that cats love to cuddle. They’re just a little shy. Oscar is absolutely a gateway cat. I’ve had many people who had never known cats before, and they met him and are like, “Now I want a cat.” You know, give them a second to come to you, and it can be really rewarding.

BTS: Jahlil Swan
Makeup: Kendal Fedail
Hair: Rena Calhoun

nisha gopalan illustration

Nisha Gopalan

Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

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